The Lazarus Effect: Bringing the Dead Back to Life

In Revelation, believers are promised new life in the passage of the first earth, where God will dwell among men, and there will be no more pain and suffering.  Alternatively, if we choose not to believe and pursue desires of the flesh, we are ensured a “second death.”

Revelation 21 reads:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

At ONE, the ultimate goal is to facilitate a second life. As mentioned before, there are many dimensions of poverty, and thus, many different components that need to be addressed in order to restore life.  One such component, that is quite literally killing millions of Africans, is lack of access and affordability of medication to treat HIV positive individuals.  Currently, ONE is working on a campaign to raise awareness and support from Congress for continued funding of GAVI, which provides ARV’s to HIV positive individuals in Africa to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child.  The tagline of the campaign is concise and powerful: “No child born with HIV by 2015”. Without ARV’s, HIV positive individuals are practically the living dead, unable to perform daily tasks such as walking to the market for food, without feeling weak.  Many are confined to their beds, and wait for death.  However, with consistent ARV treatment, these individuals get a second chance at life. This process has come to be known at ONE as the Lazarus Effect, coined by Spike Jonze in his moving documentary about Antiretroviral (ARV) administration in Africa, particularly in the country of Zambia.  Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, ARV’s raise individuals from a state living death to a place where they can function normally without pain and weakness.  In the Lazarus Effect documentary, a woman named Concillia, described the experience of finally getting access to ARVs as being “resurrected”.

Upon watching the Lazarus Effect, it occurred to me that there is a complex dimension to hope in the ‘new life’ described in Revelation, that presents a unique opportunity for Christianity, and for Christians.  Many individuals with HIV know what it feels like to be alive, but not really living.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if these individuals were presented with a second life, through the widespread distribution of ARV’s and the gospel? It seems the promise of Revelation, life in death, would carry particular significance for people who have experienced near death in life.  It would also seem that Christians, who posses clear directives from the gospel, should take responsibility and ownership for the distribution of ARV’s as a source of life for a hurting community.

My role at ONE thus far has been to work on ONE Sabbath, a campaign that encourages faith based communities to take responsibility for facilitating a second life.  This campaign is still in the planning stages, but so far, the Faith Relations team has concluded that the most effective way to simultaneously promote awareness and trigger action based responses would be to show the Lazarus Effect Documentary to a variety of inter-faith congregations (the awareness) and then encourage the action based response of letter writing to district congressmen (the action) asking for continued support for ODA (Overseas Development Assistance).  But more to come on that subject…once the plan has progressed past a rough draft.

To watch the Lazarus Effect online, go to: